26 July 2022

The four significant numbers, reprise

There's been some bits of "people don't trust the mainstream news" going by, and well, of course not.

There's a lot to say about structural problems, the "it's not justice if it's not general" issues and the "this is the wrong status quo and has been since the 1970s but the money will not acknowledge that" issues, but those are fundamentally secondary.

News is, by the philosophical necessities, about facts.  The current system gets all its feedback from feelings, so it presents feelings, and frequently prescriptive feelings.  It can't be news, and people do notice.

In plague times, the four significant numbers:

  1. global case count 
    • zero for thirty continuous months = party!
    • not zero? no party
  2. local Rₜ 
    • keep this less than 0.5 (= disease dying out quickly)
    • at 0.8, get emphatic (= diseases in reach of winning)
    • at 1.0, it's domain-of-necessity time (= disease is winning)
  3. life expectancy
    • it's dropping
    • it's plausibly dropping much more than one year per year
    • it's not being reported by most Core nations
  4. excess mortality
    1. how we know the outcomes of policy generally
    2. with causes, we know specifically where the system is failing
    3. also not being reported by most Core nations nor political subdivisions thereof.
Actual news would be doing "how do we know", "what can this tell us", and "here's some trend forecasting" about these, but it would also be presenting these numbers every day as the core facts relevant to the pandemic.  

(Remember that the health care system exists to increase life expectancy and decrease excess mortality.  "How functional is the health care system today?" is a tactical worry about life expectancy and excess mortality systemic trends.)


JReynolds said...

Interesting item found on Twitter regarding COVID in Nova Scotia.

"50% of all reported SARS-CoV-2 related deaths in Nova Scotia have occurred since protections were removed.

"Mild" omicron is responsible for 76% of all reported SARS-CoV-2 related deaths in the province."

Plus a fun graph showing that living with COVID is about as smart as living with cholera.


Graydon said...


A while back, Tara Moriarty was pointing out that there'd been something like (as of that date) 27 pediatric COVID deaths in Ontario. 1 of them was prior to Christmas Eve, 2021.

Omicron isn't mild, it's spreading in a more immune population. Greenfield it's very probably worse than the wild type.

(I realize you know that. I still have issues with the probable survival of the people responsible for that mild narrative.)

JReynolds said...

OT, but I thought I'd bring it up.

Have you read Rachel Rosen's Cascade? It's set a couple of decades from now. Canada is still a going concern, but the USA has fallen apart. James Nicoll reviewed it a couple of months back.

The return of magic is extensively used as a metaphor for climate change (which is also going on). An unsettling read.


arborman said...

I've been enjoying (for a given value of the word) the book 'The Premonition' by Michael Lewis about the lead up and beginning period of the Covid 19 pandemic in the US, from the point of view of various public health officers and other doctors who could see it coming, tried to prepare and found the US health 'system' wholly unsuited for responding to any form of fast moving pandemic.

Facts that were obvious to anyone paying attention, but it is interesting from a lived experience perspective, and to read the views and motivations of the people who invented and tried to implement social distancing, staged shutdowns and other circuit breaker mechanisms to stop the spread of Covid early enough that it might have actually been possible.

The problem is of course that such systems were designed for a country and polity that followed rational decision making processes. Such a country and polity have never existed.

Graydon said...

+J Reynolds
I have not! Very little fiction reading this last while.

People underestimate how easy a target the dominionists consider Canada, and how difficult it is to do something to effectively deter rich Americans.

Also how much more vulnerable we are to food collapse; lots of current production but fewer climate zones.

Graydon said...


The initial response to polio wasn't completely rational, but the public health aspects of it came close.

The mammonites have worked hard for the current paralysis; the civil power was at one time understood to have proper reasons to exist.

Which means things are unfortunately in the "great in space, brief in time" end of things in terms of resolving a lot of the pressing issues. It's not going to work from the "small in space, long in time" angle.

JReynolds said...

There's an article in today's Globe and Mail: To address our country's health care crisis, start by containing COVID-19, which suggests that we should deal with COVID as the emergency it so plainly is: an all-hands-on-deck situation, where masking, fitting and retrofitting public spaces with proper ventilation should be encouraged, keeping vaccinations current should be strongly encouraged, and generally open up the pipeline for creating extra health care workers. After all, if things are this bad in August, how will they be in January?

If the national paper of record can print something like this, maybe not all hope is lost.


Graydon said...


Once you've decided to privatise health care, you've decide already decided that the health outcomes are irrelevant. It's a decision to kill people for money.

No amount of death or maiming due to COVID is going to make any of the conservative premiers willing to address the pandemic. (Especially since it would involve admitting that there's a legitimate civil power that can tell them to do stuff; next thing you know, they'd be paying taxes.)

At this point, the minimum sufficient response is a state of emergency, direct production of a great many things (air filters, elastomeric masks, LAMP testing infrastructure, medical professionals...), a whole lot of people going to jail forever for bioterrorism, and a hostile audit of all the provinces. I doubt anybody can manage that.

So, yay, there's still someone at the Globe and Mail able to math a little. But the necessary consensus to break the mammonite tendency does not exist in hopelessly oligarchical Canadian politics.

JReynolds said...

So, yay, there's still someone at the Globe and Mail able to math a little.

You're really harshing my mellow, Graydon.

Wish I thought you were wrong.


Graydon said...


Wish I thought I was wrong, too.